Easier for our customers: using link2rail to optimise planning

link2rail's eServices provide improved timing, greater clarity and more flexibility.

Improved timing, greater clarity and more flexibility: link2rail's eServices score highly because they benefit customers in all kinds of ways and improve satisfaction levels, according to feedback. Confirmation of this also comes from an independent study by the University of Münster, which states that our digitalisation platform has even surpassed our customers' expectations.

link2rail is where we've pooled all our digital services such as wagon ordering, consignment tracking, invoicing and more. How would you like to use it? Online via DB Cargo's platform, linked to your own system via an API (application programming interface), or as an app?

Click for clarity

A few clicks are all you need to see ordering and transport processes in their entirety, from offers to invoices. Our system makes sure you always get the very latest information. It also compresses large volumes of data and displays them in ways that provide clarity.

link2rail currently offers the following functions:

  • Empty Wagon: for ordering empty wagons
  • Track & Trace: for tracking rail consignments
  • Order: for viewing and placing orders
  • Invoice: for accessing status information and overviews of invoices

Digital rail freight transport

Since launching link2rail, we have connected over 1,200 customers to the portal. Using an API (application programming interface) link to connect our solution to a customer's IT system makes it possible to integrate digitalised information with the internal logistics processes used by businesses in different industries. Feedback has been positive – link2rail fills a "digitalisation gap" at our customers' companies and makes it easy to process information further. Thanks to this, we are able to undertake far-reaching measures to digitalise and improve processes.

eServices that add value

That's just the beginning. Under the umbrella of link2rail, we are continuously expanding the portfolio of assistants described above. These services are embedded in our customers' processes, such as placing empty wagon orders, using wagon intelligence to track consignments and performing certain industry-specific activities.

Individual Recycling – a heavy metal service
We are currently working on an e-service for customers in the steel and scrap metal sector. They will be able to use the portal to coordinate consignment volumes, empty wagons and capacity at steel plants as well as approve volumes and place orders automatically. Customers will have straightforward access to Individual Recycling via the link2rail portal, and this module's dispatch and supply planning function will include standard features for actions such as ordering empty wagons, placing transport orders and tracking and tracing consignments. This will enable these customers to take full advantage of all the portal's benefits. They will get access to the new module in summer 2021.

“Individual Recycling will enable us to incorporate entire sectors as well as integrate uniform processes and procedures for our customers and employees. It's a great achievement by all those involved. I'm looking forward to it; I can hardly wait for the launch.”

Matthias Nickisch, Scrap and Forwarding Customer Service team

Destination Control
We are currently developing another tool that will make a big difference to planning processes. Destination Control builds on data intelligence to provide information about capacity at unloading points and recipients' facilities. This gives the consignor greater planning certainty while also improving resource allocation at the unloading point, making it possible to avoid bottlenecks.

“Destination Control customers bring flexibility to their dispatch planning activities and modify them to suit the situation at the destination whenever required. We are creating transparency along the entire supply chain and working together to optimise resource allocation regarding freight wagons.”

Renee Bongers, Metals I Customer Service team

Track & Trace
Knowing where a wagon is becomes particularly important for the later stages of the planning process. When will a consignment reach the recipient? How can loading and unloading be planned? link2rail answers these questions by using clear maps and providing status reports that display a consignment's history. We tell customers a load's estimated time of arrival and proactively report any changes. We do this by evaluating satellite, geolocation and sensor data and using artificial intelligence to merge it with information from infrastructure managers. This enables us to provide customers with status information whenever they need it. This data is then fed into our customers' systems via an interface, helping them to improve their planning activities for downstream logistics and production processes.

Geofence Control
How many (empty) wagons are there at your site, and how long have they been there? Companies, particularly large ones, often find it hard to keep track. Geofence Control draws a digital boundary around a customer's premises. Within this area, wagons can be identified using GPS data. Users get an overview that details each wagon's number, location and idle time. They automatically receive a warning when standing times are due to expire, which saves them demurrage charges. Customers will get access to this function in summer 2021.

Wagon Data
Near-field communication (NFC) and radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors give users quick, digital access to information about the wagons on their premises – potential loads and load limits, for example. This makes it possible to make maximum use of each wagon category's load potential, systematically monitor the loading process and optimise this activity. Over 95% of freight wagons have already been fitted with the necessary technology.

Digitally monitoring wagon condition with artificial intelligence

The cameras produce matrix and LineScan images of passing freight wagons in rapid succession. Copyright: DB Cargo AG

The use of camera gantries over rail lines represents another step towards digitalising customer processes on a large scale. We will install twelve gantries at nine different locations around Germany by the end of 2022, and they will be able to monitor 90% of our entire wagon fleet. A gantry consists of a steel frame carrying nine high-resolution cameras (2k and 4k) plus an array of sensors. The cameras take a rapid series of sharp matrix and live-scan images of passing freight wagons from five different angles. Using artificial intelligence, we can automatically process these images and so provide our customers with relevant information about the vehicles' cargo, which they can then use to optimise their logistical processes.

Get in touch with our expert.

Dr. Eric Pfaffmann

Programme Director link2rail, DB Cargo AG